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Gut bacteria have influence on blood lipids levels

11 September 2015
University Medical Center Groningen

Gut bacteria influence essential factors in the prevention of heart disease. B acteria in the gut play a role in changes in people’s weight, body fat and the amount of good cholesterol in their bodies. These are the results of research by a group of UMCG researchers led by geneticists Jingyuan Fu and Alexandra Zhernakova. They publish their findings in Circulation Research today. For the first time t he association between gut bacteria and blood lopids levels is shown; this represents an important step in the prevention of heart disease.

Scientists at the UMCG have been researching the link between chronic inflammation and the development of heart disease for some time now, with financial support from the Dutch heart foundation Hartstichting. People who are seriously overweight suffer from this chronic inflammation because their gut, liver and fat tissue fail to interact properly. This probably contributes to their increased risk of heart disease. The exact relationship between these factors is the subject of this broad research project, of which the study by Jingyuan Fu and Alexandra Zhernakova is the first result.

The latest DNA sequencing techniques have made it possible to gain a better understanding of gut bacteria and their role in the human body. The researchers used these techniques to study the link between gut flora and blood lipids (fatty substances in the blood) in 893 LifeLines participants.¹ Their study showed that no fewer than 34 types of gut bacteria contribute to changes in BMI, fatty acid levels in the blood and the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) in the body. This link was previously unknown. The researchers also found that the bacteria contribute very little to the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL).

The results are important because they represent a starting point for new treatments that prevent heart disease. The composition of the gut flora might be able to be influenced through food, pro- or prebiotics to such an extent that it keeps body weight, fat and cholesterol at a level that helps prevent heart disease. The researchers believe that more research will lead to more knowledge about the association between food and heart disease.

¹ LifeLines is a large biobank that stores the biomaterial of more than 167,000 participants in the LifeLines scientific research project. It provides the infrastructure for scientific research in the field of healthy ageing. LifeLines will follow the health of these 167,000 participants for a period of 30 years.

Source: press release UMCG: tel. +503612200

Last modified:11 September 2015 12.17 p.m.
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